Author Phil Stamper has recently released his sophomore novel, As Far As You’ll Take Me to the delight of readers everywhere. In As Far As You’ll Take Me, Marty escapes his small homophobic town and flies to London, to play music, travel and really be himself for the first time. Stamper recently chatted with Baltimore OUTloud regarding the recent book release.
Frankie Kujawa: In your own words, how would you describe your book for audiences?
Phil Stamper: As Far As You’ll Take Me is a coming-of-age story that follows Marty as he leaves an unwelcoming life in Kentucky to live out his professional dream of being a musician in London. He falls into a great friend group that becomes his family. Through it all, the theme of coming-of-age is weaved throughout the book, and it reflects the growth we get to experience as teens.
FK: What was your inspiration for writing this book?
PS: I put so many pieces of myself in my books. There are so many pieces of inspiration that I shoved, lovingly of course, together into this story. I think the basic story of an anxious, queer teen trying to find himself; that came directly from my personal life. I did not move to London to find myself, but I did [find myself] when I went to college and left my rural, farm town in Ohio. I had grown up really lying to everyone and myself. I kept on lying to myself until the last month of high school. When I started writing an early draft of this story, in 2015, I was getting my masters in London. I was 26 at the time. At 26, I was dealing with a ton of anxiety and overwhelming aspects of that trip. Up and moving to London was not an easy thing for my brain to handle. I thought it would be an interesting story to have this anxiety-ridden teen and throw him into an anxious situation in London. To tie it all together, I am a musician. I always wanted to write music into my books in a meaningful way. So, for the character, especially when he gets to London, he feels like he is missing something because he left his religion. There is a void there because that is what he grew up with. He feels that his religion has abandoned him. So, to Marty, music has become his religion.
FK: What do you hope readers will take away from this novel?
PS: I think, with both of my novels, what I really want readers to take away is there is hope in any circumstance that you find yourself in. My first novel, The Gravity of Us, was set in a world where none of the drama related around identity. I wanted people to read it and get hope from those experiences. However, this isn’t always everyone’s experience. With As Far As You’ll Take Me, I wanted to show the flip side of what happens if you aren’t surrounded with support from birth. What if, in fact, it is the opposite? How do we navigate those waters? Based on the feedback I get; I find that situation is more common with queer teens. With this story, we get a lot of growth with Marty. He starts out a bit naïve and hopeful. By the end he is not naïve anymore, but he still is pretty hopeful. That is the through-line that I wanted. Not every story has a happy ending, but it’s a pretty happy ending in this book despite all Marty goes through. It is an ending that shows hope from the future and will be probably in all my books. I want to show that hope for queer teens.
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.
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